Why evolve reliance on the microbiome for timing of ontogeny?

C. Jessica E. Metcalf, Lucas P. Henry, María Rebolleda-Gómez, Britt Koskella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The timing of life history events has important fitness consequences. Since the 1950s, researchers have combined first principles and data to predict the optimal timing of life history transitions. Recently, a striking mystery has emerged. Such transitions can be shaped by a completely different branch of the tree of life: Species in the microbiome. Probing these interactions using testable predictions from evolutionary theory could illuminate whether and how host-microbiome integrated life histories can evolve and be maintained. Beyond advancing fundamental science, this research program could yield important applications. In an age of microbiome engineering, understanding the contexts that lead to microbiota signaling shaping ontogeny could offer novel mechanisms for manipulations to increase yield in agriculture by manipulating plant responses to stressful environments, or to reduce pathogen transmission by affecting vector efficiency. We combine theory and evidence to illuminate the essential questions underlying the existence of microbiome-dependent ontogenetic timing (MiDOT) to fuel research on this emerging topic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01496-19
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Virology
  • Microbiology


  • Bet-hedging
  • Host
  • Life history evolution
  • Microbiome
  • Ontogeny


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